The deciding game in the National League Division Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates in St. Louis will go to Cardinals.
A baseball cliché is you’re only as good as your last start. If that’s the case both pitchers in this game are certifiable aces. In game one of this series, Cardinals’ pitcher Adam Wainwright did a masterful job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone and had tremendous results.
He went seven innings, allowing one run and three hits while striking out nine to lead his club to the win. In game two, the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole was every bit as good. He went six innings, gave up one run on two hits and struck out five.
So how to distinguish between these two clubs? Both teams have excellent bullpens (Pirates ranked second and the Cardinals fifth in the National League in the fewest runs per game conceded by their relievers). Both teams have also shown an ability to score runs in this series. The Pirates have had seven-and five-run outburst earlier in the series, while the Cardinals scored nine in the opener.
The choice here comes down to a few factors. The first is that Wainwright has an additional day of rest between this game and his last start compared with Cole (Wainwright has five days and Cole has four). Extra rest almost always helps a pitcher.
The second is that Wainwright just has so much more experience in pressure-packed post-season games than the rookie Cole. This will be Wainwright’s fifteenth playoff outing. In contrast, it will be Cole’s second.
There is no denying that Cole dominated St. Louis in his first start of the series, but keep in mind that the contest was Cole’s first-ever appearance against the Cardinals.
As mentioned when I picked that game, that was a huge advantage for Cole as he is a very talented pitcher and the element of surprise tends to bolster a player of his ability in that situation as it takes hitters a while to adjust. I believe the Cardinals hitters, which are some of the smartest in the National League, will have made some of those necessary adjustments.
Finally, there is definitely home field advantage here. In the regular season, St. Louis had a very impressive 54-27 record (.667 winning percentage) at Busch Stadium. Against Pittsburgh at home, the Cardinal went 6-3, but this included four straight home wins against the Pirates at Busch to finish the season.
This has all the makings of a classic game, but I’d take the Cardinals.
Best bet: Back the Cardinals to win at 1.61